The Smile Back Initiative

I’m starting a campaign.

You can consider this the public service announcement.

It’s called the ‘smile back’ initiative.

It’s quite simple. If you pass a stranger, or lock eyes with someone, it is your firm responsibility to smile back and spread a little bit of positivity. Failure to do so will result in you being an awful person. If you are willing to live with the responsibility of being an awful person, then you don’t have to smile. Simply keep walking.   

I decided this would be my initiative today while walking and passing my fair share of strangers, many of which I’m staring to classify as ‘perpetual strangers’.

These strangers are people I pass frequently, but still have not exchanged basic information with. I typically name them purely by outfit, and because my imagination is really a bit overactive, I give them names of my own creation. There’s shoe girl, and hair girl, and other shoe girl. Based on these names you would probably have no idea that I major in creative writing, but whatever.

In my imagination, some of these people are friends with one another, and some are enemies. Some have dreams and aspirations; others do not, all at my very creation. I decide. All because I have not crossed worlds with these people who could otherwise be just as fascinating in real life as they seem to be in my head.  

Today I simply decided I wouldn’t remain content with merely forming friendships in my head. I would no longer create fake names and the calculate scenarios. I couldn’t do another minute of it all.

and so I created the ‘smile back initiative’

I passed a young woman on her way to of from what I’d like to imagine is class. We are on a college campus, but I suppose that could be a general assumption.

In any event, usually I call this girl ‘backpack girl’. She has an interesting giraffe print Jansport backpack. I think it’s interesting that we can see an animal print and know which animal it belongs to. I have physically seen a giraffe perhaps one time in my life and honestly I may have dreamt that entire experience, so I’m unsure how I can see that print and confidently register it as a giraffe.

During that banter of thought, I decided she would forever be ‘backpack girl’ regardless what her parents may have named her.

But today was a different day. Today was a fresh opportunity. One to not to formulate preconceived notions based on backpacks in pseudo-recognizable and caricature animal prints that probably poorly represent their corresponding animal species.

“Hey.” I said with a slight smile.

“Hey” she responded with equal enthusiasm.

and we both continued going to or from what I’d like to believe was probably class.

But again, that could be a general assumption


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